When I first came to China, I didn’t have any real travel goals. After all, I thought we would be here only 6-months to a year, so I knew we couldn’t see everything.
But as 6 months turned into one year and one year turned into two we found ourselves doing a lot of traveling, and slowly I have come up with a few China travel goals.
One such goal is following the money. In China, every bill is a different color. On the front side of the bills is a shiny big headed picture of Mao. But on the back, every bill is different. The different denominations promote a different scenic wonderland of China, some of the biggest, most famous places.
One day I realized something: I have been to many of the places featured on the bills. In fact, close to all of them. So now I want to hit them ALL up, for the same reason that mountain climbers climb mountains; because I can. You don’t get a prize, you don’t get your name in a book, but what you do get is (hopefully) some good experiences seeing new things!
So here are the bills and the locations;
The West Lake in Hangzhou – This picturesque scene was easy for me to see. I live an hour by bus to Hangzhou and have been there many, many, many, many times. Actually I think I had been living here for several months before I realized it was the West Lake on the bill. Accomplished September 2009
Tai Shan (Mount Tai) in Shandong Province – I had always thought this picture was Yellow Mountain, and was upset recently when we couldn’t climb it due to rain. But it turns out this mountain is Tai Shan, one of china’s most sacred mountains. We hiked up it last summer and it was one of my favorite things we’ve done in China. Of course I think I can be forgiven for getting the pictures of the two mountains mixed up because it is from the top of the mountain. See, despite climbing Tai Shan, and spending the night at the top to catch the sunrise, the picture below is all we got to see. So how am I suppose to know what the top of the mountain looks like. Accomplished July 2010
The Yangtze River, Three Gorges Dam This one I have yet to see. I think the Yangtze is the most famous river in China, and the three gorges dam is world famous thanks to the displacement of millions of people and the submergence of thousands of years of history. Despite all the damage the dam has done, I do still want to see it. And I have heard that the surrounding countryside is still beautiful even if the water depth has changed. This is the one that could cause trouble for me finishing my goal as we really have no plans right now to see it. Maybe next winter? Accomplished: TBA
Li River in Yangshou The actual spot of this bill isn’t the important thing. Instead, this bill is promoting the entire area around the Li river, with the amazing karst (or limestone) peaks. Of course you can go to the exact spot where the bill was painted (and you can hold it up and see the exact picture) but we didn’t do that. Instead, we took a bamboo boat trip of our own in the Li river and saw some pretty similar scenery. We even saw an old man in a bamboo boat floating serenely down the river, just like the bill! Accomplished: Feb. 2010
Potala Palace in Tibet (the former home of the Dali Lama) This is the mother of all trips, and one we really want to do while in China. (I mean, an opportunity to go to Tibet doesn’t come along everyday, gotta get it while we can.) But even though it is a part of China, it is still an uneasy, unrestful part of China and access to foreigners is limited. Even with my residents permit (which means I have the same traveling rights as residents) I can’t go to Tibet by myself. In fact no foreigner can. To get permission from the government you have to join a tour group and they apply for a permit on your behalf, and you have to go ‘on a tour.’ Luckily there are many companies that know foreigners want to travel on their own so they have teeny, tiny tour groups, like just you. (Love the legal loopholes.) Of course this will be a big trip, and one you have to prepare and plan ahead for (not our usual traveling MO) but one that is definitely worth the trouble. Accomplished: Possibly winter 2012? Or summer?
Great Hall of the People in Beijing This is one of those big, ugly square, communist era buildings right in Tiananmen Square. I didn’t go into it (heard it was quite nice) but I saw it from the outside. So that counts. It’s just a big old building where lots of people meet and discuss things, and it is the most un-scenic place in all these otherwise beautiful places. But I guess their just doing a little national pride thing. After all, our bills feature the White House and Lincoln memorial, so can’t complain too much. Accomplished: Feb 2008
I know that setting travel goals is sometimes meaningless, that sometimes it is just a way to have a false sense of purpose when you travel, but also sometimes it can help you go to new places that might now have on your own. Are you living in China? How many places on the bills have you been to?
Photo credit for top photo
Great post Becky! I have aways wanted to know where all those places were…so far only 1 yuan, 20 yuan and 100 yuan completed. Our planned trip to the Potala Palace this Friday was scuppered when there was a five week moratorium on visitor permits. This is our second abandoned trip to Tibet…so hard to get there!
And how about the 1 jiao and 5 jiao notes? Have you visited those ethnic minorities? (the 5 jiao I know shows Miao and Sani women, the 1 jiao I’m not sure….)
Fiona, too bad about your trip to Tibet being blocked. I had heard about the current ban, but didn’t know anyone it affected.
And I don’t see the jiao notes all that often around where I live. We pretty much exclusively use the cons instead. But no, I don’t think I have visited those ethnic minorities yet. But the one jiao has the Korean ethnic minority, which is located in Heilongjiang which we will be going to this summer! Maybe once I finish the main bills my new goal will be the jiao bills! 🙂
One of the most annoying thgins about going back to the states is that ALL of my Chinese friends here ask me to bring a iPhone back for them. Not only do I have to front the cash for it, I have to take the risk of having it taken at customs and all that stuff. All because iPhones are, so much cheaper in The US. Cheaper, yes, but for the price and inconvenience of the whole process of getting it over, it’s not worth the 500 1000 RMB you save. If you can’t afford an extra 1000 RMB on a phone, you don’t need an iPhone to start with! Many of the apps and functions don’t work in China anyway.